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Pritzker’s mask mandate upheld by lawmakers

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CAPITOL BUREAU) — The Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) upheld Gov. JB Pritzker's mask mandate on Tuesday.

JCAR needed eight votes to oppose and suspend the governor's emergency rule, but Democrats stood with Pritzker. The Republican motion failed 6-5.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker filed the emergency rules Friday.

The emergency rules focus on businesses that don't enforce the requirement for people to wear masks in public. Enforcement begins with warnings and can result in fines.

That process is as follows:  

  • First, businesses will be given a warning in the form of written notice and encouraged to voluntarily comply with public health guidance.  
  • Second, businesses refusing to comply will receive an order to have some or all of their patrons leave the premises as needed to comply with public health guidance and reduce risks.  
  • Third, if the business continues to refuse to comply, the business can receive a class A misdemeanor and be subject to a fine ranging from $75-$2,500. 

Reaction from the vote

Republican members of the committee hoped the full General Assembly would be involved in the discussion before a vote.

"We should work collaboratively. Get all of those suggestions together and then bring us back into a special session and put it into bill form. Then allow both parties to debate it in the House and in the Senate," said Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris). "I mean, it's the best-case scenario for all of us."

Rezin notes many people already follow the state's mandate, and only a few "bad actors" refuse to enforce the guidance. Still, she feels residents would be more accepting of a mask mandate if their lawmakers brought local concerns to the table.

Retailers oppose decision

The business community is also concerned about the approved rule. They feel individuals refusing to wear masks should be the people facing the penalties instead of owners.

"The rule itself only places an obligation on the business level," said Pritzker's legal counsel Ann Spillane. "It is written to say the only way to violate this rule is at the business level."

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association doesn't agree with that idea. "If they're really going to put in place an individual mandate, then they need the courage of their convictions and apply those enforcements against the people who aren't wearing their face coverings," IRMA President Rob Karr.

IRMA officials have participated in most of the discussions with the Pritzker administration since the pandemic started. However, Karr says he still hasn't talked with anyone from the governor's office since the rule was filed last week. He feels this will put retailers at higher risk for verbal and physical attacks by customers refusing to comply.

Pritzker thanks rule supporters

Gov. JB Pritzker released the following statement following JCAR upholding enforcement rule Tuesday afternoon:

I have always put the health and safety of Illinoisans first, and I’m gratified that local governments now have an additional way to keep their communities safe.

I want to thank the broad coalition of Illinoisans from around the state for their input and advocacy in support of science. Groups such as the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, the Illinois Public Health Association, Open Safe Illinois and our Safety Net Hospitals. As well as the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Illinois AFL-CIO, the Illinois Restaurant Association, National Nurses United Organizing Committee-Illinois Chapter and SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana worked together to ensure the state remains focused on beating this pandemic.

The vast majority of our communities and business owners are doing what’s right. Working alongside these partners, these rules will provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued and will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibly won’t take our state backward. These rules will ensure that there is a commonsense way to enforce public health guidelines with an emphasis on education first so that Illinois can continue to make substantial progress in our fight against COVID-19.

Gov. JB Pritzker
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Mike Miletich

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